It gives me great pleasure to be part of the launch celebrations for The Mercury Travel Club by Helen Bridgett. The Mercury Travel Club is published by Red Door on 16th March 2017 and is available for pre-order here.
I have a smashing extract from The Mercury Travel Club for you to read below.
The Mercury Travel Club
‘Hi, I’m Angela. My husband ran off with the caterer we hired for our daughter’s graduation party. Pleased to meet you.’
Meet Angie Shepherd who, after 24 years and 11 months of marriage, finds herself divorced and driven by friends and family to move on. From hangover to makeover, Angie steps firmly away from the sensible knitwear, and launches into every adventure on offer from baking classes and book groups, to speed dating, and even ‘The Granny-Okes’, a 1980s tribute act and YouTube sensation.
But Angie needs more than a bar of galaxy and a night in with Murder She Wrote… what she dreams of is entrepreneurial success. Channelling her inner Richard Branson, the light bulb moment happens: it’s time to take the plunge and invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club, an exciting new business venture. But as the Travel Club gets going, things don’t go according to plan, and in this digital age a little chaos brings the fame she s been looking for.
Set in present-day Manchester, this classic mid-life journey features the 1980s soundtrack from Angie s youth, and sees her travel the world whilst coping with life after the Ex. Angie’s journey is the catalyst her friends need to examine their own lives; as they start to find their true callings, will Angie find hers? Witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, this feel-good debut novel shows it s never too late for a second chance.
An Extract from The Mercury Travel Club
A Fresh Start
A hearse drives out of the cul-de-sac as I drive in. I hope that’s not an omen.
Cross Road: genuinely the name of this street. I didn’t pick the place because of the address but I have to confess to enjoying the irony. I couldn’t bear to stay in our old house during the sale; it wasn’t just the thought of people traipsing round judging my taste and rifling through my memories (which would have been bad enough), but no, he brought her into our house.
‘Never in our bedroom,’ he yelled at me when I found out, as if bedding your mistress in the spare room somehow puts you on a higher moral plane.
The thing that annoyed me most was that she burned our only Jo Malone candle. It lived in the spare room, never ac- tually meant to be lit – just to sit there and tell anyone visiting we had impeccable taste. Every woman knows this; I’d never set fire to a £40 candle in anyone else’s house, but she did it in mine. She lit the match that started the row and eventually brought us here.
So here I am; I think they used to call these ‘starter homes’, small boxes for young couples. Given the obvious funeral taking place, maybe things have come full circle and they’re ‘finishing off homes’ now, last stop before the old fogey centre.
I can’t see a single person peeking through the blinds to have a nosey at the new neighbour. I might have caught someone’s eye, maybe made a new friend and have someone to talk to. Maybe I’d even get invited to an impromptu party – but nothing. Probably for the best, I’m not sure I’m ready to start explaining myself yet.
Hi, I’m Angela. My husband ran off with the caterer we hired for our daughter’s graduation party – pleased to meet you.
It’s New Year’s Eve and I start wondering why they chose today to hold a funeral; I guess because no one is working tomorrow. It’s always best to schedule your exit around the bank holidays.
They’re funny things, funerals; like all the big moments of life and death they take no time at all. A couple of words and that’s it, next please. I remember when Patty’s husband died, she looked at her watch as the congregation were leaving and said, ‘A few thousand pounds for twenty minutes? He wouldn’t have been happy with that.’
It made us smile because she was right, he wouldn’t have been.
Right then, Mrs (or I suppose its Ms now), stop this and perk up; this place is carefully designed to cause no offence: neutral magnolia walls, teal carpet and white gloss doors. The air has a whiff of industrial cleaning about it; the landlord probably bought the ‘new tenant’ package. Everything is packaged nowadays.
Wash that man right outta your life? Certainly madam – would you like the bronze, silver or gold package? The gold comes with free mistress removal.
I’ve bought a new bed and sofa, which were thankfully delivered on time, and I’ve unpacked what I need to: a ready meal, bottle of wine and a pint of milk. At the moment it still feels as if I’m staying in a holiday cottage for a few days. But this is it. This silent, easy to maintain house is all I have to show for twenty-four years and eleven months of marriage (yep, I didn’t even get a silver wedding anniversary bash). I mustn’t get morose. It’s over, but my life isn’t.
Despite hankering after a party invitation, I do want to be alone on my first night here. I thought it would be a good time to reflect and make plans for the future; sitting here now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. It’s a funny night to spend on your own. Ordinarily I’d just watch television, but tonight it’s all people having a wonderful time. I must definitely avoid alcohol at all costs: do not open the wine, do not get drunk or maudlin. Have a bath, an early night and wake up gloriously refreshed for a dignified start to the next stage of my life.
The single years.
Oh Lord, what just happened? I wake up with that scary sensation; I have no idea where I am or what I’ve done to get here and I don’t recognise the room at first glance. Out of habit, I peer across the bed at the next pillow but there’s still no one there. At least I didn’t throw myself on any random passer-by or accost a new neighbour. Or if I did, the vision of me drowning in my own drool wasn’t particularly attractive and he didn’t stay. I also bypassed the bath last night and collapsed fully dressed with a full face of make-up; my pillow case looks as if Robert Smith has slept on it.
I remember switching on the TV and then convincing myself I’d stick to one glass of wine if I opened the bottle. There are some lessons you don’t learn no matter how old you get.
Although every brain cell is begging me not to, I have to lift my concrete head up and take it downstairs to find the paracetamol. The kitchen is like a crime scene. I could imagine CSI dissecting the evidence.
‘Wine rack empty and lasagne not cooked,’ they’d note in their authoritative way.
‘Drinking on an empty stomach, nasty. How much wine?’
They’d shine one of their torches into the recycling corner (even when plastered I seem to be environmentally responsible).
‘Looks like two empties – a champagne and a cab sauv.’
(Did I really open the champagne too? And not just open but consume?)
‘Good taste, but a lot for one little lady.’
They’d nod in knowing agreement.
My phone is sitting on the worktop and with trepidation I check I didn’t make any drunken calls to my ex; I sigh with relief when I’m assured otherwise. It lights up with Patty’s daft photo and I realise I’ve had it on silent all night. I tell myself I wanted to avoid well-wishers, but the truth is I was more afraid that no one would ring. I hug my little phone as I see lots of missed calls around midnight and just as many text messages with kisses on the bottom; it’s like a virtual embrace and I’m so relieved that people care. Zoe tried to call so many times before and after midnight; she would have been working the room at the anointed hour.
I feel terrible for not being sober enough to pick up the phone to my one and only daughter. Discarded wife and neglectful mother; the accolades are piling up this year. Zoe will be my first call as soon as Patty gets off the line. In my hungover state, the saving grace is that Patty talks so much I don’t usually need to think or say anything.
‘What did you get up to last night?’ asks Patty. ‘An orgy with the new neighbours?’
I snort; it counts as an answer.
‘Guess where I ended up?’ she continues. ‘Onstage at the Rose & Crown. Guess what I sang? “Like a Virgin”. It was absolutely hilarious …’
This is what a conversation with Patty is like. I can drift off for hours and she doesn’t notice. It’s very soothing, almost like being in a coma yet knowing that there’s someone on the outside trying to make contact.
I’ve known Patty (she was actually christened Patience – it doesn’t fit at all) for over thirty years (ouch). She’s four years older than me and was my supervisor when I joined the airline (being a stewardess was a glamorous career back then, before budget flights). Patty has always been the biggest personality in the room. I’m sure if we were ever invited to the White House, all eyes would be on her. She’d also get the President singing; an ex-drama school student, she gets everyone singing and if The X Factor had been around when we were young, she’d have won. She frequently tells me that she still has time to be the next Susan Boyle.
She usually does Cyndi Lauper numbers, but I suppose ‘Time After Time’ isn’t really a New Year crowd-pleaser. Also the Rose & Crown doesn’t have a stage, so she was in all likelihood standing on a table. I don’t mention this.
‘So have you?’ she asks.
Blimey, a break in conversation, and I’m expected to reply.
‘Have I what?’ I say.
‘Made any resolutions? New Year, fresh start etc., there must be loads you want to do now you’ve lost all that baggage.’
Invent a way of drinking wine without having a hangover?
That’s the first thought to enter my head and I’d probably win the Nobel Prize for it. I drift mentally to the prize-giving where the room raises a glass of champagne to me; the imaginary smell of it makes me gag.
‘I’m not ready yet,’ I sigh. ‘I just want to unpack, recover and get my bearings first.’
‘I’m not going to let you stew,’ she replies. ‘No wasting your life away as divorce debris.’
‘Give me until the end of the month,’ I say. ‘You know what I’m like.’
‘You must be the only person who makes their New Year’s resolutions in February,’ says Patty. ‘OK, you’ve got till then or I’ll come round and sort you out myself.’
With a final, ‘I’m always here for you’, she’s gone and the house is silent again.
Years ago I came to the conclusion that January 1st is the very worst day to start any resolutions as you’re always too tired or hungover. So I give myself a month of grace and start in February. It’s worked so far; just as everyone else is giving up, I’m just getting going. And you only have to stick to them for eleven months. Well, ten months, because let’s face it no one sticks to anything in December.
Now I have to redeem myself on behalf of all other errant mothers in the world and phone my daughter.
About Helen Bridgett
Helen has always loved books and always loved writing. One year she decided her New Year’s resolution would be “Write a novel to give as a Christmas present”. She spent the year writing and The Mercury Travel Club was born. Helen hails from the North East but now lives in Manchester with her Husband and their Chocolate Labrador Angus. When not writing, Helen can usually be found walking or drinking wine – not usually at the same time.
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